When Atlantic Aviation v-p Sue Sommers checked into her hotel in Cancun, Mexico, on vacation last year, she was greeted with a cold drink by a friendly, knowledgeable local concierge before she could even make it to the check-in counter. That planted the seed, and the idea has blossomed into Atlantic’s concierge program. Atlantic plans to have concierges greeting passengers and pilots at the four largest of its eight FBOs. Duties will include providing any assistance possible that counterbound customer service representatives are not in the position to provide.
The first hired in the role was Kim Lamond at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). She represents the ideal candidate for the position, said Sommers. “Kim came from the hotel/hospital industry,” she said. “She’s a local with a lot of information about where to find just about anything in the Philadelphia area, and she has the right personality and temperament. Kim was just what we were looking for, and we found her by placing an ad in the paper.”
Her job differs from that of a customer service representative in that she is not responsible for keeping track of airplanes, taking fuel orders and handling telephone calls at the counter. As such, Lamond is free to move from group to group as time permits, asking if there is anything extra Atlantic can do for them. It’s an added layer of service that Sommers said is exactly what Atlantic wants to project. They’ve given it the catch phrase, “The Atlantic Attitude.”
Lamond, who spent four years as a nanny, explained the position as one where she should be there when needed, and invisible when not. She said, “When an airplane lands and there are kids on board, I’ll offer to keep an eye on them while the adults and crew take care of baggage and ground transportation duties. You have no idea how much pilots, in particular, appreciate that.”
Among the crews that transport the President, Lamond is known as the cheese steak lady. “It started with the Marine pilots of Helicopter Squadron 1 [HMX-1],” she said. “They brought President Bush to Philadelphia and, as you know, those guys have to sit around and wait for hours, sometimes with not much hope of getting a meal. This crew managed to order cheese steak hoagies, which Philadelphia is famous for. But they got them from one of the well known, downtown tourist restaurants. Frankly, that’s not the best that the real Philly has to offer. The best place to get cheese steaks is a little restaurant a few minutes from the airport–but they don’t even deliver, so I told the guys I’d go get them. The word spread, and the next time, when the First Lady came through one day, the crew told me they needed ‘a few more cheese steaks,’ including one for Mrs. Bush.”
Lamond’s local knowledge also helped her meet former Beatle Paul McCartney when he asked for a vegetarian Indian meal for a flight out of PHL. Lamond said, “I knew immediately that a new Indian restaurant nearby would have just what he wanted. McCartney stopped in the terminal building to thank Lamond personally for her effort.
Sommers admitted that hiring talent like that can be pricey, but it’s worth it, she said. “With Kim, we’ve found that pilots will upload more fuel, just because they like the way they’re treated. In some cases, crews who weren’t going to buy fuel at all end up making a sizable purchase after they experience this hospitality. We’re teaching her to upsell. When we began the program, we had to swallow hard, but it has already proven it can pay for itself, and then some.”